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Thursday, 25 September 2014
Page: 7075


Senator BULLOCK (Western Australia) (10:34): At 9.20 this morning, my office was contacted and I was directed to speak on the Health Insurance Amendment (Medicare Funding for Certain Types of Abortion) Bill 2013 as part of the Labor Party's plan to talk this matter out. It was a direction that I was prepared to resist but I spoke to Senator Madigan and he said he would welcome my contribution. For what it is worth, this is it. I have been put in a position where I am speaking unprepared. My colleagues in the Labor Party will need to consider whether they are prepared to run that risk again in future at the end of this contribution.

In my maiden speech I said at the end a few words about my wife which were probably inadequate for that brilliant, beautiful and courageous woman who took the remarkable decision to marry me. I do not know why she did it. At the time we met, I was old and ugly and approaching 40 and she was just delightful. But I put my mind to it and she ended up agreeing—I can be very determined when I put my mind to things. One of the things I put my mind to thereafter was having a family because it was something that Helen and I really wanted. By the time we worked out that that was not to be, the bureaucrats advised me that I was too old to adopt and that we would therefore have no children.

Like Noah, I responded to that by building. We built an extension on the house for the family we were not going to have and in 2003 my sister-in-law gave birth to my nephew Ethan and, when he was just shy of two, he came to live with us and formed a warm attachment to me that I am thrilled with, delighting in his company. He is a wonderful little boy. And after him came my parents-in-law to live with us, and my brother-in-law and my sister-in-law. Then the family that did not exist comprised seven and we all lived together happily.

One day, my sister-in-law, who is Chinese, did not come to dinner when we sat down for dinner. I thought, 'Oh well, she must be feeling ill.' The next day she was not there again. I said, 'What's up?'

'Oh,' said my wife, 'She's had to go back to China. There's a family matter that she's got to attend to.'

It did not sound right to me, and the next day I asked again. The fact was that my sister-in-law had again fallen pregnant, but because of the one-child policy in China and because of the uncertainty of her visa and whether she might need to go back to China, she had returned home in order to have an abortion. I thought a bit about this and I prayed a bit about it and I decided that I did not like it much.

For 37 years I have been engaged in negotiations. We have had some tough negotiations over the years with some of the largest employers in the country, and they tend not to take prisoners. Negotiations in the retail industry are tough. I had to engage in some negotiations in order to get here, and they were tough. The majority of the people who preselected me fully understand where I stand on issues, and do not support it. Yet I managed to negotiate my way through to get a seat here. But the hardest negotiations in my life took place over the next three days and nights—negotiating across half a world with people who did not speak English to convince my sister-in-law to come home and give birth to a baby.

That was six years ago, and my niece is Ella. Ella is not like Ethan, my nephew. Ella is very shy. She does not talk to me much. She runs and hides her head in her mother's skirts and is generally very remote. But sometimes she looks at me, and she opens her eyes up like saucers and gives me a big smile. And that just means the world to me. It means more to me than anything I could achieve here. And if anyone says to me that that lovely little girl does not deserve to live because she is a girl, or that that lovely little girl does not deserve to live because some petty bureaucrat in Beijing is committed to a plan of social engineering, then they are going to have to stop me. And when I make up my mind I am a bit hard to stop.

I said in my maiden speech that on issues like this, that were matters of life and death, I would always vote to support life. I support life. I support Senator Madigan's bill as a small step in the right direction, and I will consistently support the preservation of human life against all challengers.